Scientists on the NASA Kepler mission have spotted an eighth planet around a distant star! It’s the first alien solar system known to host as many planets as our own.
The newfound planet orbits a star named Kepler 90. It is also larger and hotter than the sun and lies 2,500 light years from Earth in the constellation of Draco. The planet, Kepler-90i, is described as a place that would be inhabitable, referring to it as a “sizzling hot, rocky planet that orbits its star once every 14.4 days.” by NASA Sagan postdoctoral fellow Andrew Vanderburg.
Vanderburg described the system itself as “a mini version of our solar system,” and that a majority of the small planets are close to the star and that the bigger worlds are pushed toward the outer limits. Vanderbug also clarifies that everything is much closer together.
Since its launch in March 2009, Kepler has collected a huge amount of data – and this latest breakthrough is just the beginning. “Just as we expected, there are exciting discoveries lurking in our archived Kepler data, waiting for the right tool or technology to unearth them,” Hertz said. “This finding shows that our data will be a treasure trove available to innovative researchers for years to come.”
In attendance at the briefing was the director of NASA’s astrophysics division, Paul Hertz, Kepler’s project scientist Jessie Dotson, NASA Sagan postdoctoral fellow Andrew Vanderburg and Google AI engineer Christopher Shallue The space agency also emphasized that the find was only made possible thanks to the deep learning techniques developed by Google.
Kepler has offered us a lot of information on distant planets and exoplanets. Though we’ve yet to know if these worlds can support life, we’re that much closer to finding out.
Such exciting times!